Age and load compliance alter time to task failure for a submaximal fatiguing contraction with the lower leg
Journal of Applied Physiology
The purpose of this study was to compare the time to failure and muscle activation of young and old adults for a sustained isometric submaximal contraction with the dorsiflexor muscles when the foot was restrained to a force transducer (force-control task) compared with supporting an equivalent inertial load unrestrained in the sagittal plane (position-control task). Seventeen young (23.6 ± 6.5 yr) and 12 old (70.0 ± 5.0 yr) adults performed the force-control and position-control tasks at 30% maximal voluntary contraction (MVC) until task failure on separate days. Despite the similar load torque for each task, time to failure was longer for the force-control than position-control task (10.4 ± 4.5 vs. 8.6 ± 3.4 min, P = 0.03) for the young and old adults. The old adults, however, had a longer time to task failure than the young adults for both tasks (11.4 ± 4.4 vs. 8.1 ± 2.1 min, P = 0.01), with no interaction of age and task (P = 0.83). The rate of increase in agonist and antagonist root-mean-square EMG, agonist EMG bursting activity, mean arterial pressure, and heart rate during the fatiguing contraction was greater for the position-control than force-control task for the young and old adults. The old adults had a less rapid rate of increase in EMG activity, fluctuations in motor output, and cardiovascular measures than the young adults for both tasks. Development of fatigue can be manipulated in young and old adults by providing greater support to the foot and less ankle compliance during daily and ergonomic tasks that require prolonged activation of the lower leg. Minimizing load compliance to one degree of freedom during a position-control task maintained the greater fatigue resistance with age for an isometric contraction.